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ajdh

My Harwood automatic watch

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I'd been researching John Harwood as he was also born in Bolton and is the inventor of the automatic wristwatch.  Unfortunately he has never received the widespread recognition he deserved.  Amongst his other inventions are an early impact screwdriver, an automatic pistol and a card table with a shuffling system.  He had extreme difficulties getting any Swiss watchmakers to produce his designs, eventually Fortis accepted the task in 1928.  Unfortunately during the depression of 1931, Harwood didn't have enough funds to survive and wound up the business.  He also failed to renew the patent on his design.  Rolex perfected the automatic movement and claimed it as being the first.  After complaints from Harwood, they accepted his invention was first and wrote an open apology.  After some exhaustive searches on Google, I found this example at a dealers in London.

Note there is no crown.  The hands are set by turning the outer bezel of the watch.  There's a red dot on the dial that indicates the movement is free.  You turn the dial in the direction you want to alter the hands, the red dot disappears and the movement is locked.   After setting the bezel is turned in the opposite direction until the dot appears and the watch is ready to go.  I'm told the main spring is original, to keep the integrity of the watch.  Consequently the power reserve is about 6 hours, where it was originally about 12.  As for time keeping, I'm assured it's within a few minutes per day.  I won't be wearing the watch so this is not a worry of mine.

Case width (excluding winding crown): 30mm
Case material: probably chrome plated silver. Hallmarked for silver, Birmingham 1928
strap width: 17mm

P1010665_1400_zps4b68b939.jpg

P1010669_1400_zpsab5829e1.jpg

P1010673_1400_zpsf671f5f5.jpg

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That's a serious piece of history you have there and a story I'd never heard before, thanks for sharing. 

You've set the bar high for your next topic! :)

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Although I am not fully awake yet I really enjoyed reading that thank you for sharing it with us 

 

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Just now, relaxer7 said:

Wow! Bet that wasn't easy to find. 

I think I was just lucky.  :thumbsup:

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1 hour ago, ajdh said:

I'd been researching John Harwood as he was also born in Bolton and is the inventor of the automatic wristwatch.  Unfortunately he has never received the widespread recognition he deserved.  Amongst his other inventions are an early impact screwdriver, an automatic pistol and a card table with a shuffling system.  He had extreme difficulties getting any Swiss watchmakers to produce his designs, eventually Fortis accepted the task in 1928.  Unfortunately during the depression of 1931, Harwood didn't have enough funds to survive and wound up the business.  He also failed to renew the patent on his design.  Rolex perfected the automatic movement and claimed it as being the first.  After complaints from Harwood, they accepted his invention was first and wrote an open apology.  After some exhaustive searches on Google, I found this example at a dealers in London.

Note there is no crown.  The hands are set by turning the outer bezel of the watch.  There's a red dot on the dial that indicates the movement is free.  You turn the dial in the direction you want to alter the hands, the red dot disappears and the movement is locked.   After setting the bezel is turned in the opposite direction until the dot appears and the watch is ready to go.  I'm told the main spring is original, to keep the integrity of the watch.  Consequently the power reserve is about 6 hours, where it was originally about 12.  As for time keeping, I'm assured it's within a few minutes per day.  I won't be wearing the watch so this is not a worry of mine.

Case width (excluding winding crown): 30mm
Case material: probably chrome plated silver. Hallmarked for silver, Birmingham 1928
strap width: 17mm


P1010665_1400_zps4b68b939.jpg

P1010669_1400_zpsab5829e1.jpg

P1010673_1400_zpsf671f5f5.jpg

I remember hearing about Harwood & that watch a few years ago, it seems to have dropped off the radar since then.

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If I may add to an already excellent post, John Harwood was indeed a gifted inventor & watchmaker.

During military service in WW1 he soon realised the ingress dirt & moisture via the winding crown affected the efficiency of watches, to this end he sought a solution.

His ureka moment came whilst watching children playing on a see-saw and how to harness kinetic energy.

 

Two close friends Louis & Philip Alexander provided the financial backing for his travel to Switzerland in his quest for patent & manufacturing.

It was here he met up with Anton Schild (AS) & Walter Vogt (Fortis) who agreed to manufacture Harwoods design.

Schild adapted one of his existing manual calibres & Fortis for casing the movement.

 

Also, Anton Schild was a close friend of Frederic-Emile Blancpain who was captivated by the concept & agreed to a partnership with John Harwood & manufacture some movements under a licensing arrangement.

Blanchpain later developed this movement for their Ladybird watch.

Additionally, some movements were made under licence in America.

 

As stated in the previous post Rolex "stole" the term "worlds first automatic watch" as John Harwood's patent has lapsed.

As late as 1956 and much litigation Rolex issued a sincere apology to John Harwood and in all subsequent advertising included a dedication to the genius of the man WHO invented the first automatic wristwatch.

 

In total about 30000 of these remarkable watches have been made and surviving unadulterated examples are extremely rare.

I was fortunate several years ago to acquire a silver cased model, identical to the one on permanent display in British Museum.  When I can learn the process of uploading images I will post image of my example.

On a recent trip to Switzerland I was shown one in the heritage collection at the Blancpain Manufacture at Le Brassus.

Additionally, I saw there was a 18 ct gold cased model on permanent display in the Museum of International Horology in La Chaux de-Fonds.

Clearly, they put John Harwood up there with the likes of Mudge, Breguet, Arnold, Harrison etc.

 

Obviously, I am a big admirer of John Harwood timepieces & strive to perpetuate his foresight and memory.

Apologies if have sent anyone to sleep.

 

Best Regards

 

Alan

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Funny how these things all come together at once. 

I missed this excellent thread first time around and it's resurrection caught my eye as John Harwood and his watch features in the book, '50 watches that changed the World', that I've just finished reading.

It's past midnight here now and if no-one does it before, I'll take a pic of the section about him in the morning and post it here.

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1 hour ago, Alan R. Handley said:

 

Apologies if have sent anyone to sleep.

 

Best Regards

 

Alan

No apologies required. A very interesting read. I've seen two Harwood watches and know a little of the history. Now I know a bit more, thank you.

 

On 7/25/2016 at 09:49, ajdh said:

I think I was just lucky.  :thumbsup:

Right place, right time, once in a lifetime.:thumbs_up:

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As an addition to my previous post, it is interesting to note that Roger W Smith has set his workshop up on the Isle of Man.

For those that don't know Roger was also from Bolton and the only apprentice to serve under the late great George Daniels, also of the Isle of Man ( inventor of the co-axial escapement), his and Rogers timepieces are truly remarkable.

George Daniels books are now regarded as definitive manuscripts on watchmaking and I recommend to anyone his books & the superlative DVD "The Watchmakers Apprentice".

 

There must be something about the environment on the Isle of Man to inspire such remarkable advances in horology!

 

Thank you again for sharing my passion for horology.

 

Best Regards

 

Alan

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Thanks Phil for your interesting post.

 

I note another publication that gives credit to Breguet for another horological invention.

There is no doubt that Breguet was an incredibly talented & innovative watch and clockmaker whose client list included the very wealthy & noble families of Europe.

 

However, I think it is fair to note that Abraham-Louis Perrelet & Hubert Sarton had designed automatic systems (oscillating weights as opposed to rotors)  before Breguet.

Breguet had met and worked with Perrelet as an apprentice?

 

It may also be of interest, Breguet was also a member of the board of longitude along with John Arnold who with other academics presided on the Longtitude Prize?

It was only after many decades that John Harrison (marine chronometer) now near death, was awarded the prize of £20,000 after the Intervention of King George III for solving the Longtitude puzzle!

I know some purists will argue otherwise but sometimes we all have to look beneath the surface and take in the whole picture.

 

Thanks again Phil, I do enjoy other aficionados interests and viewpoint, it all adds to life's coloured tapestry.

 

Alan

 

 

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Many thanks adjh for showing that rare Harwood automatic. I am very interested in the history of the automatic movement and it is good to pay tribute to John Harwood on this forum as he was a real pioneer of the self-winding wristwatch. :)

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3 minutes ago, dapper said:

John Harwood Jnr has a shop in Dunster, near Minehead, where he sells & repairs watches :thumbsup:

oaFZrTv.jpg

Was there in July and he is retired now according to the lady who runs the shop across the street. 

Edited by hughlle

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On 03/09/2016 at 13:28, Always"watching" said:

Many thanks adjh for showing that rare Harwood automatic. I am very interested in the history of the automatic movement and it is good to pay tribute to John Harwood on this forum as he was a real pioneer of the self-winding wristwatch. :)

The pleasure is all mine. 

I offered mine on loan to the local museum.  They weren't interested, which made me think they were missing the point.  Mine is kept in the safe and only comes out to show friends if I know they have an interest in watches.

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I tried to get an more detailed image, showing the bumpers and the sweep of the semi rotor.  I hope this shows them better.

P1020769_1400_zpsglpyhtnc.jpg

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That's a great pic! If you don't mind, could you explain a bit more about the bumpers and how the whole thing works compared to a rotor? Apologies if asking too much.

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On 04/09/2016 at 14:22, hughlle said:

Was there in July and he is retired now according to the lady who runs the shop across the street. 

She's right, he's packing up! He's having a closing down sale & opens the shop on request for anyone wanting to browse - nothing very interesting left, evidently all the good stuff went in an earlier auction :(:laugh:

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Great pic of your Harwood ajdh.

You have captured the perlage beautifully, this type is indicative of movements manufactured in Switzerland unlike the movements made under licence in America.

 

The watches are deemed so exceptional so as to be placed on permanent display in the British Museum & the International Horology Museum in La Chaux de Fonds.

Your local museum's loss.

 

Happy to explain the differences on bumper/rotor idiosyncrasies but let adjh have the opportunity as he started this marvellous post.

 

Alan

 

 

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